F&O this week: Kohl, Grenfell ashes, Trade Jungle, Singapore schadenfreude, US discourse

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl sits next to Christian Democrat party (CDU) leader Angela Merkel during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of German unification in Berlin September 27, 2000. REUTERS/Michael Urban/File Photo

HELMUT KOHL delivered German reunification and the Euro, by  Noah Barkin  Obituary

A towering figure of post-war European politics, Helmut Kohl pushed through German reunification and was a driving force behind the creation of the euro during a 16-year reign as German chancellor that spanned the tumultuous final decades of the 20th century. Kohl died June 16, 2017 at his home in Ludwigshafen. He was 87.

U.S. Capitol Police keep watch on Capitol Hill following a shooting in nearby Alexandria, in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

London’s Grenfell Inferno Reveals Policy Failures, by Joseph Downing   Expert Witness 

I grew up in social housing. It provided a stable and secure (albeit overcrowded and cold) home for my family, for life. As fire tore through Grenfell Tower, just 500 metres from where I was staying in London, I witnessed the complete and terrible destruction of 120 homes just like the one I grew up in. Yet as the ashes settle, it is clear that the threat of ruin extends well beyond Grenfell Tower.

Commentary

Down and Dirty in the Trade Game, by Jim McNiven    Column

Nationalize Google.ca? Put a special tariff on US software purchases? The international trading system is the way it is because the US thought a rule-of-law system was in its best economic interest. Going back to the law of the jungle may not be in the works, but just in case, we Canadians had better dust off Sir John A’s National Policy.

Singapore rocked by ruling family feud, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

The ruling Lee family of Singapore has created for itself, at other people’s expense, such a charmed nepotistic dynasty that anyone can be forgiven for wallowing in schadenfreude and drinking deep the pleasure of seeing them come a cropper.

American Civil Discourse in Serious Trouble, by Tom Regan   Column

The bi-partisan outpouring of unity that followed this week’s shooting at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, was a welcome respite in the never-ending deluge of hate-filled rhetoric that overwhelms political discourse daily in the United States. But it was only a moment.

Findings: 

A special report on obesity by Harvard Public Health that asks, Can we stop the epidemic?  — Harvard

The 70s ushered in two crises: AIDS/HIV, and obesity. The first has been aggressively tackled, and is today less of a threat. Obesity rates continue to soar, and to kill. America has the worst obesity rate in the developed world. Excerpts:

“It was incited not by a sudden wave of individual gluttony (even toddlers are afflicted) but by a radical and toxic change in our food environment. The public health establishment spent decades leaning on people to change their behavior. Today, researchers are beginning to wonder if it’s time for an entirely different approach…..

“The modern food era has spread out a smorgasbord of hyperpalatable, flavor-enhanced, additive-laced, convenient, and relatively affordable foods that are high in added sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt, and engineered to overcome our internal homeostatic eating signals. Our bodies and brains are all but helpless in response.”

“While weight is, of course, partly a matter of personal responsibility, America’s obesity epidemic is mainly driven by upstream influences from industry, federal policies, and social norms. Today, people are beginning to perceive those upstream forces.”

Aeon magazine is a font of interesting pieces and ideas. Recommended, in the current digital edition, is this think piece by Andre Spicer,  professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School at City, University of London: Had a good think lately? Not busy-work, ticking off to-do lists or keeping-up-with-stuff. Just sitting. And thinking. Is it so hard?  Excerpt:

“Today, we live in a culture of thoughtlessness. The American Time Use Survey found that although 95 per cent of respondents said that they did at least one leisure activity during the previous 24 hours, 84 per cent had spent no time at all relaxing or thinking. A study by researchers at Harvard University found that when we engaged in thought that was not directly related to present activity (so-called mind-wandering), we tended be less happy. A recent study by psychologists at the University of Virginia asked subjects to simply sit in a room and ‘just think’ for 6 to 15 minutes. In the room was a button allowing subjects to electrocute themselves if they wanted. The researchers found that the majority of subjects would rather electrocute themselves than just sit quietly and think. One person electrocuted himself 190 times during this short period.”

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Mayhem, Trump vs Comey, Oceans Day: F&O Fresh Sheet

Britain’s Primer Minister Theresa May addresses the country after Britain’s election at Downing Street in London, Britain June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

British Election Brings Mayhem, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Analysis

British voters have shown Prime Minister Theresa May the door. The implications of this drubbing for the Conservative government are profound, for May as Prime Minister,  but with much deeper implications for Britain.

Text of Theresa May’s statement, Reactions   Fact Box

Prime Minister Theresa May made the following statement in Downing Street on Friday after she lost her majority in a national election…

UK Election a Debacle, Brexit Looms, by David Milliken and Kate Holton   Report

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she would lead a minority government backed by a small Northern Irish party after she lost an election gamble days before the start of talks on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Former FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Russian Federation Efforts to Interfere in the 2016 U.S. Elections” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Comey Lands Punches, But No Knockout Blow, by Tom Regan   Column

How Americans responded to testimony by former FBI director James Comey, before the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a great deal to do with their political persuasions.

Sheik Tamin, Emir of Qatar, meets US President Donald Trump May 21, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Shealah Craighead, US government

Trump Cries Havoc! – Dogs (still) Kenneled, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Donald Trump, who pronounced Middle East rivalries a “battle between good and evil,” provides the world a master class on how ignorance and miscalculation by a United States president can trigger conflict and set the stage for war.

A Tribute to Oceans, a Reminder of our Reliance, by Sophie von der Heyden  Expert Witness

World Oceans Day, an international event that’s commemorated on the 8th June every year, is a chance to reflect on the importance of oceans, whether you live next to the sea or many thousands of kilometres inland.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

F&O Fresh Sheet

The platform controller signals that the train can leave at Komsomolskaya metro station in Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Going Underground in the Moscow Metro, Photo-essay by Grigory Dukor

Rub a dog’s nose for luck. Look back to Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Marvel at a mosaic spaceman. Maybe even watch a ballet. Moscow’s metro is one of the busiest and most visually stunning underground systems in the world. Created as a showcase for the Soviet Union, its elaborate, spacious stations are adorned with mosaics, marble statues and stained glass that tell the story of the communist state.

An array of solar panels are seen in Oakland, California, U.S. on December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

“Green” investment funds spring back, by Ross Kerber  Money – Report

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s election last November, investors pulled nearly $68 million from so-called “green” mutual funds, reflecting fear that his pro-coal agenda would hurt renewable energy firms. But now investors are pouring money back in.

Commentary:

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Interior Minister Amber Rudd, UKIP leader Paul Nuttall, SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson and moderator Mishal Husain attend the BBC's live televised general election debate in Cambridge, Britain, May 31, 2017. Jeff Overs/BBC Handout via REUTERS

Manthorpe: UK Election no longer a sure bet for Theresa May.Jeff Overs/BBC Handout via REUTERS

Theresa May’s election victory no longer certain, by Jonathan Manthorpe Column

Six weeks ago, when Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election, it seemed a foregone conclusion this was simply a formality to boost her parliamentary majority and strengthen her hand in negotiating Brexit from the European Union. Not any more.

Regan: America’s Confederate icons must go. Above, Stone Mountain, by Jim Bowen

America’s Confederate icons must go, by Tom Regan  Column

t has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was.

Last but not least, listen to Bob Dylan’s lecture on literature, months after he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature:

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet, from Newfoundland to Israel

Palestinian visitors gather at a look-out point on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem May 11, 2017. Picture taken May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Commentary:

Broad alliances trump Trump for Israeli security, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Israel lives in a hostile neighbourhood, and has always had trouble making and keeping trustworthy friends.

Nothing’s Happening, by Jim McNiven   Column

There’s an old saying around the stock market: ‘Sell in May and go away’. Basically, it means that usually nothing much financial happens in the summer. This year, that might also be the slogan for a lot of other parts of society.

Roger Ailes’ special place in hell, by Tom Regan  Column

When Roger Ailes died this month, response was mixed.It was Ailes’ personal foibles that led to his downfall. But I want to concentrate on his legacy in journalism, where he left a very dark mark, called “thug journalism.”

Why Donald Trump won’t be impeached, by Tom Regan   Column

For all the bad news that Trump faces, he will not be impeached: his fellow Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

India’s Maoist uprising morphs into women’s armed insurgenc, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Women guerrilla fighters are at the forefront of an emerging insurgent war in India aimed at protecting women from sexual violence and human rights abuse.

Why Ramadan is called Ramadan, by Mohammad Hassan Khalil

The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, started Friday, May 26, 2017. Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil  answers six questions about the significance of this religious observance. The Conversation

Reports:

Newfoundland’s fourth offshore oil project set to sail, by Greg Locke

While Canada’s oil sands projects and the North America fracking companies are under scrutiny and financial distress, Newfoundland prepares to bring its fourth major offshore oil project online.

Israel marks 50 years of struggling, “United Jerusalem” by Maayan Lubell

A half-century after Israel captured East Jerusalem, the holy city remains deeply divided by politics, religion and ethnicity – and struggling with grim economic realities.

Real-life “Iron Man” has high hopes for jet suit, by Mark Hanrahan

The British inventor of an “Iron Man”-style jet suit has lofty hopes that his project, which started out as fun experiment, could become a practical tool for industries ranging from entertainment to the military.

Gulf States Curbing Opposition, by Sami Aboudi

Since the 2011 Arab Spring, Gulf states have stepped up efforts to curb dissent with tough new cybercrime laws, sentencing offenders to prison terms for Web posts deemed insulting to rulers or threatening to public order. But in the past two years, unnerved by low oil prices and the slow progress of a war in Yemen targeting the influence of arch foe Iran, Gulf authorities became even less patient with dissenting voices in the media, analysts and rights groups say.

UK investigates use of personal data in political campaigns, by Reuters

Britain said it was investigating how politicians and campaigners use data to target voters with online advertising to make sure they comply with electoral laws and do not abuse people’s privacy.

NOTEBOOK:

For some perspective on what will matter long after the latest political outrage has faded in Washington, London, or Moscow, set aside time, soon, for the sobering interactive feature by the New York Times on the melting of Antarctica —  and how changes to its vast ice sheets will affect the world. World leaders are urging the United States to stay the course on tackling climate change. But one academic has an interesting contrarian’s view of the Paris Agreement: the world would be better off if Trump withdraws from the Paris climate deal, argued Luke Kemp, of Australian National University, in Nature Climate Change. He explained his view here, in The Conversation: “Simply put: the US and the Trump administration can do more damage inside the agreement than outside it.”
Recommended read elsewhere: Kafka in Vegas, by Megan Rose, ProPublica/Vanity Fair

Fred Steese served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of a Vegas showman even though evidence in the prosecution’s files proved he didn’t do it. But when the truth came to light, he was offered a confounding deal known as an Alford plea. If he took it he could go free, but he’d remain a convicted killer.

Misc:  As the Cannes Film Festival wraps on May 28, check out stories on France24. For an “odd news”break, the BBC reports on “Why humans, chimpanzees and rats enjoy being tickled.”

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details and payment options, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Journalism Matters: fresh sheet for May 13, 2017

Read Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse. Above, a worker waits to deliver his harvest at a packing line inside a banana plantation operated by a Chinese company in the province of Bokeo in Laos April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan   Column

In the heart of America, there are long, flat stretches of emptiness in the spring. Fields, only recently plowed and sown with the fall’s harvest, still look barren and soggy. No majestic fields of wheat or corn greet the eye.  This is a trip to Trump country.

Trying to listen in Trump’s America, by Tom Regan

Signs like this one dot the American Mid-West. Photo by franleleon, Creative Commons

Moon Jae-in, 19th President of Republic of Korea, holds his first press conference on May 10. Photo: Korean Culture and Information Service, Jeon Han, public domain

Trump-Kim smackdown leaves South Koreans cold, by Jonathan Manthorpe    Column

The election to the South Korean presidency on May 8 of Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-in is primarily a demand by the country’s voters to reform government, erase corruption and improve social justice.

Everyday chemicals affect brain, IQ — study, by Barbara Demeneix  Expert Witness

All vertebrates – from frogs and birds to human beings – require the same thyroid hormone to thrive. Every stage of brain development is modulated by thyroid hormone and, over millions of years, the structure of this critical hormone has remained unchanged. But, increasingly, the trappings of modern life are preventing it from playing its critical role in human brain development.

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth, by Nina Martin, ProPublica, and Renee Montagne, NPR

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and 60 percent are preventable. The death of Lauren Bloomstein, a neonatal nurse, in the hospital where she worked illustrates a profound disparity: the health care system focuses on babies but often ignores their mothers.

Cash and Chemicals: Banana Boom Blessing and Curse, by Jorge Silva  Photo-essay

Kongkaew Vonusak smiles when he recalls the arrival of Chinese investors in his tranquil village in northern Laos in 2014. With them came easy money, he said. Three years later, the Chinese-driven banana boom has left few locals untouched, but not everyone is smiling.

These three firms own corporate America, by Jan Fichtner, Eelke Heemskerk, & Javier Garcia-Bernardo

A fundamental change is underway in stock market investing, and the spin-off effects are poised to dramatically impact corporate America.

Traffic cones are seen on the bank of the River Thames during low tide in London, Britain January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

London’s Secretive Dark River, by Stefan Wermuth

London’s River Thames has been the lifeblood of the British capital since the city’s origins as a Roman garrison town around 2,000 years ago. The artery through which the world’s trade passed at the height of the British Empire, its banks were lined with factories that drove the industrial revolution but left its waters biologically dead. Now, with power stations transformed into galleries, the river is home to seals, the occasional porpoise and has become a much-loved open space.

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Posted in Current Affairs

Journalism Matters this week: F&O’s fresh sheet

Venezuela spins at the rim of a black hole,  by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators clash with police during a rally against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Reuters

Venezuela is being sucked into a political and social vacuum. The awful probability is that the vacuum will be filled by violence. That’s usually what happens when human societies lose their way.

Why America’s health care is so bad, by Tom Regan   Column

America is the only advanced nation in the world without a universal healthcare system. There are two reasons for this: 1) the companies that provide healthcare, and make billions and billions doing so, spend lots of money every year making sure politicians don’t mess with their golden goose; 2) the American notion of individuality.

Feminists mourn Wendy Robbins

Feminists across Canada and abroad are mourning the sudden death of Professor Wendy Robbins, a Canadian sociologist who championed women in academia, health care, and activism.

How One Major Internet Company Helps Serve Up Hate, by Ken Schwencke, ProPublica

The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate. Based in San Francisco, Cloudflare operates more than 100 data centers spread across the world, serving as a sort of middleman for websites.

Journalism at risk from surveillance, data collection: UNESCO report, by Julie Posetti  Expert Witness

The ability of journalists to report without fear is under threat from mass surveillance and data retention. My UNESCO report Protecting Journalism Sources in the Digital Age shows that laws protecting journalists and sources globally are not keeping up with the challenges posed by indiscriminate data collection and the spill-over effects of anti-terrorism and national security legislation.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Press freedoms at tipping point: RSF

Press freedom is declining globally, warns Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontières, today releasing the 2017 World Press Freedom Index showing press freedoms “in the worst state we have ever seen.”

“Once taken for granted, media freedom is proving to be increasingly fragile in democracies,” said an RSF analysis. Authoritarian regimes and dictatorships are not the only culprits for abuse, it said. “In sickening statements, draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators. “

Even the leading European democracies  have declined, notably Finland and the Netherlands, said RSF.

“By eroding this fundamental freedom on the grounds of protecting their citizens, the democracies are in danger of losing their souls,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.

From FSF’s press statement:

Media freedom has retreated wherever the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed. Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall.

RSF’s “global indicator” has never been so high (3872). This measure of the overall level of media freedom constraints and violations worldwide has risen 14% in the span of five years.

As we have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms, this 2017 World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries.

European countries  — which also rank high on assessments of citizen happiness and economic competitiveness — ranked at the top of 180 countries, led by  Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Canada dropped four spots in one year to 22. France and the United Kingdom ranked 39 and 40 respectively, with the United States at 43. Mexico is far less free, at 143; Russia at 148, and China at 176. Dead last is North Korea. The biggest change is in Italy, which jumped 25 spots year over year to 52nd place.

RSF bases its results on a questionnaire about pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information. It explains its methodology here.

Compare press freedoms where you live to other countries using RSF’s table, here.

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in All

Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet

Ferryland, 50 kilometers south of St Johns, is the backdrop to Newfoundland’s first icebergs of spring. Heavy Arctic ice pack and icebergs cause havoc with shipping and fishing operations, but tourists flock to the Canadian province to see them. Photo © Greg Locke 2017

French election a pivotal European test, by Richard Maher Analysis

French CRS police patrol the Champs Elysees Avenue the day after a policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting incident in Paris, France, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French voters go to the polls on April 23 for the first round of what has been the most unorthodox, unpredictable and potentially momentous presidential contest in recent French history. It could have repercussions far beyond the continent.

Security issues dominate key French vote, by Leigh Thomas and Marine Pennetier  Report

The killing of a policeman by a suspected Islamist militant pushed national security to the top of the French political agenda on Friday, two days before the presidential election.

A daughter’s freedom vs her sibling’s lives, by  Zohra Bensemra  Feature/Photo-essay

Zeinab, 14, (2nd L) poses for photograph with her family beside their shelter at a camp for internally displaced people from drought hit areas in Dollow, Somalia April 3, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

As the village wells dried up and her livestock died in the scorched scrubland of southern Somalia, Abdir Hussein had one last chance to save her family from starvation: the beauty of her 14-year-old daughter, Zeinab.

In Commentary:

Trump ain’t seen nothing yet, Iran to top agenda, by Jonathan Manthorpe

Trump is going to have to up his global game if he wants to be regarded as anything more than a gormless and dangerously unpredictable Vaudeville act. His opportunity looms as Iran, its nuclear development program and its involvement in Middle East conflicts, bubble to the top of the agenda.

Trump’s gurus taken off air, by Penney Kome   Column

Alex Jones, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes inspired some of US President 45’s wildest claims

When is free speech not “free” on campus?  by Tom Regan  Column

Of all the things that I value the most about living in a democracy, freedom of speech is probably the most important. And so when I read about actions by students lately to limit the rights of conservative or far right speakers on several American campuses, my first reaction is one of rage. How dare they? But it’s not that simple.

In case you missed them:

Demands grow for South Africa’s Zuma to go, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

Demonstrators carry banners as they take part in a protest calling for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Johannesburg, South Africa April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings It is fitting symbolism that one of the most intense of the many mass demonstrations in recent days, demanding the removal of South African President Jacob Zuma, was in the square in front of Cape Town’s City Hall. It was in this same square on the evening of February 11, 1990, that tens of thousands of South Africans thronged to hear the first public speech by Nelson Mandela after his release from Victor Verster Prison earlier that day.

Legalized weed in Canada an idea whose time has come, by Tom Regan   Column

Canada, based on a campaign promise made by the Trudeau government, introduced legislation to make recreational marijuana use legal in Canada by July 2018. It’s about time. I’m glad to see that Canada has chosen to take the lead on this issue.

Trump and Yellen may not be such an Odd Couple, by By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir   Analysis

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference after a two day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Trump and Yellen: not an odd couple? Federal Reserve REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

At first glance, U.S. President Donald Trump and Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen may have little in common. Yellen is an academic economist and veteran of Democratic administrations who is committed to an open global economy, while Trump is a real estate mogul with an electoral base suspicious of the economic order Yellen helped to create. Yet the two may have interests in common now that Trump is president and both want to get as many Americans working as possible.

Findings from the world wide web:

The European Space Agency this month issued a stark warning about a pollution source few consider, awash as we are in an ocean of plastic, an atmosphere of greenhouse gases, and degraded soil. Space, warns the ESA, is littered with thousands of objects smashing into each other — including into vessels humans may want to send up for exploration or, in the wild hopes of some thinkers, escape from an unlivable earth. Find the ESA statement here, or read a Washington Post story for a bit more context.

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The New Yorker reports on the death this month of guitarist Bruce Langhorne, age 78, from complications related to an earlier stroke.  “For anyone who, in the mid-nineteen-sixties, frequented the smoky, caliginous folk clubs of Greenwich Village, the muscular, smiling Langhorne and his acoustic guitar were a recurring vision: he played with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Richard and Mimi Fariña, Peter La Farge, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Harry Belafonte, and a bevy of other revivalists.” Most of the world, though, is most familiar with him as Bob Dylan’s sideman, and the hero of  “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

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Posted in Current Affairs

From Vimy to Gibraltar, Obamacare to Russia: Journalism Matters at F&O

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New on F&O this weekend:  Sunday April 9 marked the 100th anniversary of the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge — said to have marked Canada’s passage from colony to country status. Read our report with photo-essay by Reuters, France, Canada leaders mark centenary of Vimy Ridge WWI battle. In Commentary Tom Regan notes that for Canada and the United States, the battle and World War I have very different meanings.  Read Regan’s column,“War to End All Wars” fading from history, here.

Jonathan Manthorpe this week considers Gibraltar — “The Rock” Caught In A Hard Place — in a new column about the territory in British hands since 1713, and is now emerging as an issue in negotiations with Brussels to leave the European Union. Read more about Gibraltar.  Manthorpe’s previous column, Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations,” contends that Beijing is reaching back into the excesses of Maoist Stalinism and forward into the high-tech social control of Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” to try to contain the restive natives of its colonial outposts, Tibet and Xinjiang, setting the stage for grief for Hong Kong. Click here for the column on China, or here for the list of all of Manthorpe’s F&O works.

Americans turn Canadian about health care, writes Penney Kome in a new piece about how U.S.  public opinion is forcing Republicans to think “expansion,” not “repeal,” of the Affordable Care Act. Read the column, or find Kome’s complete  F&O OVER EASY columns here.

Jim McNiven has been pondering the fuss made by America over Russia, and asks this week, Why Does America’s President Bother with Russia? That column is here, or find all of McNiven’s THOUGHTLINES columns for F&O here.

Noteworthy items elsewhere on the web:

“Why do so many in the news media love a show of force?” asks Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post.
Good question. The answer is probably found in audience ratings and social media shares– and so, as with everything in the world of commerce, with citizen’s demands.

First Draft News produced a well-received “Field Guide to Fake News,” launched this month at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. The Columbia Journalism Review reports.
Stories about America’s political meltdown have become a flood. As mentioned earlier, these diverse, authoritative and credible news sites are worth following for breaking news: Reuters, the New York TimesPolitico,Washington PostBBC, The GuardianAl Jazeera, France24Financial Times, and The Economist.

Last but not least, here are some of our other recent stories, in case you missed them:

Trump Staffers’ Financial Disclosures /ARIANA TOBIN & DEREK KRAVITZ, ProPublica

Trump and Russia: “There is a smell of treason in the air”/TOM REGAN    Column

Beijing brings order to its colonial “Savage Reservations”/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows/ALASTAIR MACDONALD & JAN STRUPCZEWSKI  Report

Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour/REUTERS   Slideshow

Fukushima still in hell/PENNEY KOME    Column

McGill University mangles academic freedom/TOM REGAN   Column

America’s Republican Quandary/ JIM McNIVEN   Column

Sri Lanka’s slow shuffle to lasting peace/JONATHAN MANTHORPE  Column

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Note: this post was updated April 9 to include our report on the Vimy Ridge event in France.

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Journalism Matters: F&O’s fresh sheet

A combination photo shows the St. Basil’s Cathedral (L) and the Kremlin wall, before (top) and after the lights were switched off for Earth Hour in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

European leaders renew fraying Union’s vows on 60th anniversary, by  Alastair Macdonald and Jan Strupczewski, Report

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks back during the EU leaders meeting on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in Rome, Italy March 25, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Europeans must contain their squabbling and carping about the EU if the Union is to survive, leaders warned on Saturday as they marked the 60th anniversary of its founding in Rome by signing a formal declaration of unity. Four days before Prime Minister Theresa May, absent from the ceremony in the Italian capital, delivers an unprecedented blow to the bloc’s growth by filing Britain’s formal exit papers, her fellow leaders hailed 60 years of peace and prosperity and pledged to deepen a unity frayed by regional and global crises.

Lights go out around the world for 10th Earth Hour, by wire services, with slideshow

The lights are being switched off around the world at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, to mark the 10th annual Earth Hour, and to draw attention to climate change.

America’s Republican Quandary by Jim McNiven   Column

There is a classic John Cleese TV comedy performance, in which as “Basil,” owner/manager of a small British hotel called ‘Fawlty Towers,’ suffers a concussion then mocks German guests by goose-stepping around them, decades after World War II ended. The episode brings to mind today’s Washington, DC.

McGill University mangles academic freedom, by Tom Regan  Column

I recently experienced a moment of cosmic irony.  I had just learned that Andrew Potter, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen, had “resigned” as head of the Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University in Montreal, when I received an email from McGill touting that another of their own, Karina Gould, as Canada’s new Minister of Democratic Institutions. How sad that Gould won’t be able to include her alma mater in her new area of expertise.

Sri Lanka’s slow shuffle to lasting peace, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

After all wars, the euphoria of peace quickly gives way to the bleak, forbidding reality of the human and physical toll that must now be rebuilt. Resolution is less simple in the aftermath of civil wars. Civil wars are caused by internal social dislocations of one sort or another, and if those root causes are not addressed, the peace is often just a ceasefire. That’s the conundrum facing Sri Lanka eight years after the 26-year civil war ended in 2009.

Fukushima still in hell, by Penney Kome   Column

Six years after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami ruined four nuclear reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi, urgently needed clean up is still stalled. What affects one nation affects us all. The ongoing  tragedy cries out for the United Nations to step in, take charge, and direct all the world’s best minds and resources to containing the disaster and rescuing the people who live there.

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European flags on display in Brussels, Belgium, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

In case you missed them:

 Turkey’s dispute with Europe feeds Erdogan’s power thirst, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs  Column

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, in fighting off a populist challenge from Islamaphobe Geert Wilders, unwittingly gave another demagogue the leg-up he needs to achieve supreme power. The diplomatic face-off between the Netherlands and Turkey was a gift to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

America’s coming civil war … in its GOP, by Tom Regan   Column

There is a war looming on America’s horizon. Not with Iran or China or North Korea … for the moment. No, this war will take place entirely in America, and it will involve members of the Republican Party. It won’t be pretty.

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Noteworthy elsewhere:

Follow America’s political meltdown at these diverse, authoritative and credible news sites: Reuters, the New York TimesPolitico,Washington PostBBC, The GuardianAl Jazeera, France24Financial Times, and The Economist. Consider what many American voters are seeing at Fox News —  but watch with a heaping dose of skeptical salt, and compare Fox coverage to that of the peer-respected, professional and mostly ethical sites listed above.

Terror, shipwreck, guns – 24 hours in a Karachi ambulance, by Samira Shackle, Mosaic. Who would risk their own safety tending to the injured and recovering the dead in one of the most violent cities on earth? Samira Shackle rides along with a driver from the world’s largest voluntary ambulance service.

How the Spanish political laboratory is reconfiguring democracy, by Ramón Andrés Feenstra, Andreu Casero-Ripolles, John Keane and Simon Tormey, The Conversation, part of a series on Democracy Futures.

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Posted in Current Affairs